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Hiring notice for uranium mine sparks concern among environmental groups

The Pinyon Plain Mine, as seen from the air in November 2019, is located on the Kaibab National Forest less than 10 miles from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
The Pinyon Plain Mine, as seen from the air in November 2019, is located on the Kaibab National Forest less than 10 miles from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

The company that owns the sole active uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park is hiring. Conservationists see the move as a potential ramp-up in operations at the controversial site.

The online ad posted last month calls for miners and
support staff to apply for work at the Pinyon Plain Mine. It was formerly known as the Canyon Mine and is located less than 10 miles from the South Rim.

Environmental groups have long worried that a ramp-up at the mine that’s yet to produce uranium ore could pollute groundwater that feeds critical seeps and springs inside the canyon. The Havasupai Tribe says it also threatens their sole water source and sacred sites.

According to the uranium industry, however, modern production methods are safe and don’t pose a threat to the area’s environment. A spokesperson for the mine’s owner, Energy Fuels Resources, says it would lessen dependence on uranium imported from Russia. The company hasn’t decided when production could begin but says it’s likely at least a year away.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is still considering the Grand Canyon Protection Act. It was introduced by Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema last year and would permanently ban new claims on a million acres outside the park.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.